“Be honestly and unapologetically you. Because you being uniquely you will allow the people you interact with to feel comfortable being uniquely them […] There is no more authentic way to connect and no greater gift to give.” – Scott Dinsmore

“The truth about ourselves, and our humanity, is found at the places where our lives intersect.” – Rebecca Ribaudo, Author

Deep, meaningful connections arise from authenticity and vulnerability. When we allow our true selves to be seen – excited, afraid, emotional, alive, confused, unique, ecstatic – we give others permission to do the same. No matter where lives meet, whether in person, digitally, or through a shared work of art, it is by expressing all of who we are that we make life vibrant and full.

I try to model that behavior by writing from an authentic, genuine, and open place. However, even with that intention, most of the time I highlight the positives. In today’s culture, especially with services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’re often under pressure to be or look a certain way, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

As part of a program I’m in, I’ve been playing with starting conversations by completing the phrase, “What I don’t want you to know about me is…” I’d like to play a version that game here by sharing more than I ever have before – the good, bad, funny, ugly, proud, embarrassing, and everything in between. If unwritten rules exist about what we “should” or “shouldn’t” share, then this post is about breaking them.

Some of the things below were actually easy and fun to explore. Others made me cringe, and just writing them impacted my mood. It’s made me not the most fun person to be around during the past week. (Sorry Kristen! Te amo!) It’s also why this post is coming much later in the week than usual. But, as Brene Brown shares in a TED talk that has been viewed almost thirty million times1, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful. […] Let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are.”

Why? Three reasons

I have three intentions with this post.

First, I want to create deeper connections with all of you. As Corbett Barr writes, “I want people to know who I really am so I can really connect with the people I’m meant to connect with on a deeper level.”

My second intention is more personal. (Spoiler alert: one thing I don’t want you to know is that I’m selfish.) I’ve learned that being open requires less emotional energy than being guarded. Hiding is hard work, and the more I share, the lighter I feel. It’s easier to just be me. I plan on continuing to share even more openly and authentically in the future.

Lastly, if you’re feeling it, I’d like to invite you to share something as well. Leave a comment below, shoot me a tweet @mbalchan, or email michael@michaelbalchan.com.

Disclaimers & Gratitude

I’m not going to share EVERYTHING, baring all of my past indiscretions and telling every secret there is to tell – some things just aren’t appropriate for this type of medium. But, I’m coming pretty close. I’m definitely scared to hit “publish.”

This post is also a bit longer and more in depth than most others. If you’re pressed for time, give the headers a quick skim and revisit it later. I also know that this won’t resonate with everyone, and if that’s you, awesome. I’m glad we could get that out of the way.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out and thanks to the inspiring people who’ve lead the way in writing this type of post, including the amazing Corbett Barr and the evolving team behind Live Your Legend – including both Scott and Chelsea Dinsmore.

OK. Here goes.

27 Unfiltered Facts, Fears, Doubts, & Personal Stories That I Don’t Want You To Know About Me

  1. I don’t feel worthy of what I’ve been given, including my physical health, my financial and professional success, and my relationships.
    I half expect to wake up in a different life or have something terrible happen to me. I didn’t always take care of my body and often wonder if or when it will catch up. I struggle with “imposter syndrome” in almost everything I do, especially when I started college and first entered the workplace. I’ve also treated both my family and my wife in ways that I’m not proud of and am surprised (and grateful) that they love me the way that they do.
  2. I’ve got an immature trickster side that loves pulling pranks.
    This has included, among many others: mooning people (I once even executed a drive-by moon when I was the person driving), building amazingly huge and life-like snow-sculptures to some sort of fertility god, late-night trespassing and shenanigans, faking serious injuries at football practice (that one crossed the line and I deeply regret it), and throwing surprise water balloon attacks. I also think farts are hilarious, and crack up when I hear (or produce, often on purpose) an audible one.
  3. I’m an attention seeker with a pretty big ego that I try to keep in check…
    I like it when people look up to me and I sometimes do or say things just to show off and get attention or recognition. Even seeing growing numbers of social media or blog followers makes me feel good. I can also be quite narcissistic, and love checking myself out in the mirror, especially when working out.
  4. … at the same time, I feel guilty when I do well.
    I’m uncomfortable receiving compliments, and sometimes hate sharing my accomplishments because I’m afraid of making others feel bad. I even used to tell people (and sometimes still do) the made up story that I slept with my High School guidance counselor in order to have her fudge my transcripts, and that’s how I got accepted into Harvard.
  5. The ideas I write about and share – I need to work on them too, and that’s a big part of why I write them.
    That applies pretty much across the board.
  6. I curse like a sailor.
    When I first started trading, almost every one of my sentences included at least one swear word. I then consciously focused on changing my vocabulary, and had a few years of relatively clean speaking. Lately, I’ve decided that if what I want to say is best expressed with a curse word, then fuck it, that’s what I’m going to say. Side note: I actually am a pretty good sailor.
  7. I love exploring the edge, including the boundary between the sacred and the profane, as well as commonly accepted social norms and taboos. (But it has gotten me into trouble in the past.)
    Most of the time everything works out well, but every once in a while I cross the line and have to figure out how to retreat and fix it. I’ve purposefully used charged words in situations I shouldn’t have, and I sometimes challenge people’s opinions and beliefs when it’s inappropriate for me to do so. But, I’ve also lead a basketball style cheer for Pope John Paul II, in person, (“Give me a P! (P) Give me an O! (O), P, E, what’s that spell?”) and have developed close friendships with people of all ages and walks of life.
  8. I proud of the fact that I’m an Eagle Scout and can play several instruments, but I hated my parents for forcing me to do those things as a kid.
    I let them know about it too.
  9. I went through, what might politely be called, a ‘douchebag’ phase.
    This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that when I went to Spain with a group of close friends from school, every single one of them warned Kristen (my now wife, who we were all meeting for the first time), to be careful about getting involved with me. And they were justified in doing so – I had a lot of growing up to do, and I made many mistakes. But, she saw something in me, and I would not be who or where I am today if it weren’t for her. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully communicate just how big of an impact she’s had on my life, or what it means to me.
  10. I periodically go on massive binges.
    In college, this manifested through binge drinking, which on at least a few occasions left me passed out in a location that I shouldn’t have been (most notable being on a random side street in Cambridge, and in a school gymnasium that I didn’t recognize). Today it manifests most often with food – on cheat days, major holidays, or at all-you-can-eat buffets – and I’ll eat so much that I literally cannot move and have to lay on the couch (or floor.) Every once in a while, I’ll have a weekend day when I start partying in the late morning and don’t stop until my body shuts down. #NeedsWork
  11. I love both streaking and skinny dipping.
    I always have. On more than one occasion, upon first sight of the ocean at night, my clothes are off and I’m in a full sprint to the water. There was also a group-streaking tradition at school that I loved participating in each year. One time, I was one of the last people running, and I ended up high-stepping off next to the drum major at the front of the band. Side note: I don’t do it to show off the goods (actually, my brother is much more “gifted,”) I just think it feels liberating and free.
  12. I’m afraid that my future won’t be as good as my past, and that I won’t be able to live up to self-generated expectations.
    Up until now, life has been pretty fucking awesome, but I’m worried about not being able to continue at the same level. I believe that I can, and I’ve had a blast approaching the world with playfulness and creativity, but there’s still an occasional voice that speaks from a place of fear and doubt. Especially during times of transition.
  13. I’m artsy.
    I love the arts, especially drawing and playing guitar or piano. Inspired by DaVinci, I’ve actually been drawing a lot more over the past year – sometimes words just aren’t the best medium of expression. (I plan on starting to include more images in my posts.) I also really want to be able to sing, but I’m not very good (yet). I like to say that I have a beautiful instrument, but that I just don’t know how to use it. Anyway, check out some recent journal pics.
  14. I have periods where I feel very vulnerable and afraid, and I respond by getting defensive and withdrawing.
    Sometimes they pass quickly, sometimes they don’t. They can be caused by not taking care of myself (either because of too little sleep, or skipping a meal), by suffering a professional setback, or by overwhelming myself with too many things on my to-do list. However it happens, my reaction is usually the same: getting defensive and withdrawing. It’s been the number one cause of arguments over the past five years.
  15. I’m crazy competitive, at pretty much everything…
    Mostly with myself, but also with other people. I want to dominate workouts, whether CrossFit style, Orange Theory, Pelaton, or even in a yoga practice or race against the runner or biker on the path who doesn’t even know we’re racing. I think personality tests are things to be beaten. I’m even competitive about living – I want to be the best at life. But, at the same time, I never think of myself as better than other people, and I don’t want anyone else to view me that way either.
  16. … but, I rarely push myself to a true 100% effort, because I’m afraid of what will happen if I do that and then I fail.
    I’ve been able to achieve a lot by operating at a very high level, but I don’t feel that I’ve ever been brave enough to truly see what I’m capable of. Whether in academics, athletics, art, relationships, or professionally, I consciously or unconsciously have always held something back. I’m afraid of what will happen if I give it everything I’ve got, and it turns out to not be enough, so I leave myself escape routes and potential explanations for why. It’s an edge I’m leaning into and have had fun exploring lately.
  17. I’m selfish, and I’m OK with that.
    We only get one body to experience the world through, and I’m committed to taking good care of mine so I can experience as many awesome things as possible. So, I meditate, exercise, create, explore, give to others, etc., in large part because I feel good when I do those things, something that science has confirmed. That selfishness is also a big reason why I’ve so far been hesitant to have children.
  18. My hair was once braided with different colored rubber bands because I thought it looked badass on Coolio.
    At the time, I was spending a year in France as an exchange student. Turns out, Coolio and I have vastly different hair types. It was pretty ridiculous and actually lived online through a picture for some time.
  19. Speaking of hair, I’m self-conscious about some of the hair on my body.
    When I was younger, I would occasionally trim the hair on my arms because I thought it was too long, a phase I’m glad I grew out of. I also have a funny patch of hair on my lower back that looks kind of like a tail, but it still gets an occasional man-scape.
  20. I can be pretty stubborn, even when I know I’m wrong.
    It’s an area where I’ve invested a great deal of energy into becoming better. I’ve always really looked up to and respected people, especially close friends, who were willing to admit when they were wrong and let things go.
  21. I feel like a fool on the dance floor.
    I feel far more comfortable sitting in a chair watching than out on the floor moving, but Kristen has been helping me. I also have a few cousins who have really amazing energy when they’re dancing, and I’ve been trying to learn from them how to let loose. But, seriously, what do I do with my arms? (Or my legs, really…)
  22. I’m on a spiritual quest.
    I’m exploring that which moves me. I’ve put a ton of time into studying, experimenting, practicing, and experiencing everything I can about that amazing creative energy that makes the grass grow and my heart beat and feel love – whatever you want to call it. The flip side of that is that I get really frustrated when someone isn’t open minded. I also get frustrated when I see someone that I think is failing to honor the amazing gift of awareness that we’ve been given, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
  23. The two things that make me the most anxious are my family, and the unrealistic deadlines and expectations that I set for myself.
    With my family, I’m not sure if it’s the fact that they’ve seen me at my worst, or that I’ve worked so hard on becoming a better me, and that when I’m around them old habits and patterns get stimulated, causing internal conflict. With the deadlines, on one hand I believe it’s a reason why I’ve done everything that I have, and on the other I know that any time a deadline is approaching and I’m not done, I get really stressed and anxious. But, I’m happy to say that I’m both closer to my family today than I have ever been, and I feel awesome about my current goals, productivity, and being playful with expectations.
  24. I talk to our dog a lot.
    Not deep conversations, but constant comments and questions. “What do you think about that Gus?” or “How was your day dude?” or “Gus, don’t throw any parties.”
  25. I stayed in a job that I didn’t love for longer than I should have, and I have very mixed feelings about how I performed there.
    There were many things I loved about being a trader – including the excitement, opportunity, and competitiveness. However, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. Even though I thought about leaving for a long time, I was ultimately too scared of the uncertainty to pull the trigger, until they company helped out by asking to part ways. I’m proud of many of the things that I accomplished there, but also consider the end result to be a failure. That being said, I will always be extremely grateful for the experience, and I could not be more excited for the opportunities now in front of me because it happened.
  26. I love things that are typically considered girly.
    Growing up, when we played games as a family and needed to split the two girls and four boys into teams, I was almost always nominated to join the girl’s team. But, I never minded. I’ve always been in touch with my feminine side, and actually consider it to be a sign of masculinity. Then again, my taste in music and movies can definitely be described as girly – think Disney princess ballads and sappy chick-flicks.
  27. I’m a recovering perfectionist.
    I spend a ton of time preparing for things because I want to do them as well as possible. For example, most of these posts take me between eight and ten hours to write, I do a ridiculous amount of prep work before going into an important experience or adventure, and, while I’ve produced a lot, I also have many projects that are >90% done but haven’t yet seen the light of day. But, I’ve been playing with just shipping – putting my work out into the world before it’s fully ready, if such a thing exists. It’s a much more fun approach.

So, Now That’s Out There

I feel pretty exposed, and in a different way than I do during the activities from #11 above. I’m not sure how it’s going to be received, but I definitely feel much lighter.

If you made it this far, thank you for allowing me to share with you! As I said in the intro, I’m here if you’d like to do the same. Leave a comment below, shoot me a tweet @mbalchan, or email michael@michaelbalchan.com.


  1. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en []